Countertransference and tolerating ambivalence in supervision

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Analytic literature explains that the supervisee’s countertransferential responses are shaped by the patient’s transference and by the supervisee’s unconscious internal conflicts and relational patterns. In this paper, I suggest that, rather than interpreting the supervisee’s unconscious processes, the supervisor often struggles to expand the supervisee’s capacity to sustain ambiguous and confusing inner experiences, perceptions, and thoughts that emerge in therapeutic interactions. I will elaborate on one approach to expanding the supervisee’s containment of ambiguous and confusing therapeutic experiences: enhancing the supervisee’s tolerance of ambivalence. Tolerating ambivalence enables supervisees to contain conscious contradictory feelings and intentions and unconscious personal and relational conflicts. Furthermore, the suggested approach may help the supervisor apply rich theoretical and experiential analytic knowledge adapted to the supervisory context to achieve a productive outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-61
Number of pages15
JournalPsychodynamic Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Countertransference
  • ambivalence
  • containment
  • internal conflicts
  • self-expressions
  • supervision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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